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Has equity's time come for VET? Observations and principles for equity policy and practice in Australian education

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conference contribution
posted on 2010-01-01, 00:00 authored by Trevor Gale
Equity has a long history in education. When compulsory schooling was first introduced in industrialising nations in the mid 1800s, many advocates saw it as a way of improving the circumstances of the poorest and most disadvantaged in their communities. But access to schooling did not prove to be the great equaliser that some had hoped. Instead, it became central in the reproduction of social and economic inequalities (Bourdieu & Passeron 1977). High academic achievement became highly correlated with high socioeconomic status, and vice versa (Teese & Polesel 2003). In Australia, the Karmel Report (1973) proved to be a watershed moment in naming the equity problem in schooling and, among other things, gave rise to the Disadvantaged Schools Program (DSP): an attempt to level the playing field albeit by ‘running twice as hard’ (Connell at al. 1991). Almost two decades later, A Fair Chance for All (1990) signalled official concern for equity in Australian higher education. While access to university was not to be universal, it was to be equitable; all social groups in the Australian population were to be proportionally represented among its university students. Today, Australia is still grappling with the inequities in its schooling and higher education systems, highlighted by renewed interest by governments to address the issues. Although not of the same order of magnitude, there now appears to be an emerging policy agenda around equity in VET. Has equity’s time come for VET? This paper canvasses the history of equity in Australian schooling and higher education, with a view to drawing out principles to inform a rejuvenated equity agenda in vocational education and training.



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Perth, W. A.

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E2.1 Full written paper - non-refereed / Abstract reviewed

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2010, NCVER

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19th National Vocational Education and Training Research ‘No Frills’ Conference, 8 July 2010, Central Institute of Technology, Perth

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